analysis


Felix, Foot-Dragging Again?Image by william c hutton jr via Flickr

Ok, I’m still not able to “just go, and not think about it” with these new treads.  Just to review, I’m trying these out to assist in changing my form, though I think I was doing a pretty good job with mid-foot plant.  The idea with the Newtons is that they’ve got reduced heels, and thickened mid-foot – so there is more likelihood of the foot planting front-first than with the typical built-up heel of today’s running shoes.  The built-up forefoot is in the form of lugs that are supposed to depress into spaces in the sole, and spring back out in concert with your own, more springy turnover that would result from shortened stride and increased turnover.

But something strange did happen this time out – at about the middle of this second run.  It is a little hard to describe, but what comes to mind is a combination of a) doing the moonwalk, and b) the illusion of wheels spinning backwards when they’re clearly going forward.  The wheel illusion has been referred to as the wagonwheel or stroboscopic effect, attributed to position of spokes and the timing of film frames.  In this case though, the feeling seems to derive from trying to conceptualize the movement – and since the brain is so used to feeling heel first and then toe, encountering them in reverse may just be sending the signal that this must be backward motion.  The strangest part is that it makes it feel as if the foot is pushing forward through the plant  We’ll have to see if this wears off over time.

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This is a third post in what is turning out to be a series related to running form, and trying out some Newton running shoes (the Sir Isaac model – or Newtons on training wheels).  The objective in this little experiment is to try to shift my form to be more efficient.  Beyond shortening stride, it is about a deliberate toe-plant, with the intentions being to not only reduce impact and body wear, but to increase effectiveness of horizontal propulsion – and therefore speed and endurance.

Forefoot WearImage by Morten Liebach via Flickr

First run: Recommendation is to start out with short runs, so I did a couple of miles on them, and threw on my basic asics.

For starters, if you’re going out intending to change your form, you’re going to find yourself thinking really hard about things you normally just do automatically.  That’s exactly what was happening – thinking toe-plant, roll back, spring back – and every other element of your body movement comes into question.

The sensation of having lugs under your forefoot is certainly odd – and by the end of the first couple of miles, I was thinking that the balls of my feet would be aching later in the evening.

Cover of Cover of City Slickers

After watching City Slickers years ago, and liking the Norman character (that was the cow), I swore off eating veal.  Well that first run reiterated this sentiment; I kept being reminded of this decision for the next day or so by my screaming calves.  (I was given fair warning to expect this, and this is part of the basis for easing into wearing these shoes).

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So many fit folks that I talk to have had to give up running due to worn out knees, saying “doctor says I’m done”.  There are certainly times that I’ve felt like I was “done”, and I didn’t need anyone to tell me that!

A series of gait graphs, in the style of Hilde...Image via Wikipedia

Some of the basis for my past running thinking and experimentation has been about performance and efficiency, while some has been about longevity and wear-and-tear prevention, and some has just been about comfort and/or curiosity.   But thinking a bit more about about the mechanics of foot plant, stride and gait has me thinking I might dig in and make a go of some longer term, deliberate exprimentation – with enough time to unlearn some old habits and get beyond the awkwardness of shifting form.Here’s the text I posted to a running forum to see what thoughts and opinions might get thrown back:

Dilemma with mechanics and fitness

For context, at present, my running is not about races, performance or competition, but more for fitness (both physical and mental).  I’m also very analytical and enjoy considering and observing the differences that variations in mechanics can provide.

I am on the fence about trying out the Newtons, as I appreciate their mechanical potential, and have tried the pose method with ordinary shoes with no success (albeit likely with too little experimentation).  So here’s my question:  Given the improved biomechanics that can achieved with the:

  • reduced ankle roll motion potential of non-heal strike,
  • reduced compression of the quad on extension,
  • reduced arm swing (since the stride length is shortened)
  • and overall reduced heart rate resulting from all of the above,

If one’s objective is physical conditioning (vs competitive performance), would use of the Newtons reduce the ability to achieve the cardio and circulatory benefits sought (without having to double the time and distance of my running).

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Fox and Haskell formula showing the split betw...Image via Wikipedia

I was glad to receive one thoughtful response pretty quickly, saying “if it aint broke, don’t fix it”.  I can certainly understand where they were coming from – but I do think that if you’re doing something that has been shown to break it over time, you might want to think about fixing it even though it hasn’t broken anything yet!  Also, my question was really more to the point of objective – that is, if you get more of a workout running inefficiently, and you don’t care about winning or beating anyone else, does it make more sense to keep doing it inefficiently and get a better workout, or could you still make a case for making the change.

I’ve emailed the company that makes the Newton to get their thoughts on my question, but in the meantime, I’m probably going to grab a pair and try them out.

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Picture ? in robotic gait sequenceImage via Wikipedia

Not quite sure where I’m going to go with this, but along the way, I’m going to take some notes.

Running is something that I’ve long done, but without having given it a whole lot of thought.  Let me restate that: it is something I’ve done without analyzing it as much as I might ordinarily analyze things.  Let me try that again: … without having talked as much about my analysis of it.  That’s probably because most of the analysis has been something to keep me busy on longer runs, and has been in my head (and mostly without a spreadsheet being involved! – noted emphasis on “mostly”, rather than on “without”).

The thinking has generally been around foot plant, leg movement, energy and efficiency, translation of forces, performance… It really all began when making subtle shifts in center of mass and body angle, in order to give tiring parts of me a break – so I could make it all the way home. This evolved to trying out variations of foot-plant; softening ankle, knee and hip joints on impact; and even to deliberately reaching for heel plants to see if beginning some backward foot motion just prior to impact might give some pull-power (the way toe-clips for biking enable capturing the upward leg movement when driving the pedals around, to contribute to forward force and movement.

The experimentation wasn’t particularly scientific, and the most memorable observation was of a different kind of tired (specifically in the hamstrings). Next up was a little reading about Pose and some deliberate forward tilting and intentional toe-heel planting.  Beyond being a little awkward and almost confusing to the subconscious, I recall the lower legs taking quite a beating from that experiment.

Over time, I’ve evolved to a quiet and soft, mid-foot strike which seems to have served me well.  But I’m thinking more about what’s being left on the table.

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Day 191: Sticky Notes Mean ProductivityImage by quinn.anya via Flickr

If you haven’t already encountered Google’s newly released Sidewiki, it is a web annotation feature accessible via browser plug-in or their toolbar – and is essentially a means for people to comment on pages and, unlike tools for making notes for just yourself (like sticky notes on your screen, or the electronic equivalent), these comments are visible to others who use it and visit those pages – right on the page with the content.  This isn’t a new concept, but one that gives cause to consider the “traditional” dimensions of web experience.Generally speaking, users of web resources have typically thought of the pages they view as being depicted in the way intended by the owner of the domain (or page).  If we want to get philosophical, ownership of the rendering of the page, it could be argued, is the user’s – and plug-ins empower such customization, as this is referred to.

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

Similarly, functionality of a site is has typically been considered by users to be provided/delivered by, and/or controlled by the site owner.  In the context of beginning to think of rendering as being other-webly (i.e. from other than the provider), the same holds true with respect to functionality.  The functionality being added to the experience here is around the ability to comment, and to see comments of others, about the page.

This starts to bring home the concept that the browser is acting as the actual platform, rather than the page/site itself.  In this case, we’re talking about the bringing together of the page’s content with toughts or opinions about the page – or about things that are on the page.  So in essence, what sidewiki adds is a virtualized forum – where the forum content is in the hands of Google rather than those of the owner of the site – but is displayed alongside the content itself.

Image representing AdaptiveBlue as depicted in...Image via CrunchBase

This is not altogether different from what AdaptiveBlue’s Glue does – though there are a couple of key difference.  In both cases the user must be using the plug-in in order to see or add content – akin to joining the community.  And in both cases the comment / opinion content that is generated as a result, is in the control of the plug-in provider.  The first, and most notable difference (for now, at least) is that sidewiki “acts” as if the user generated content is about the page which it annotates, while Glue’s emphasis is on the asset to which the page refers.  The key benefit of the latter, in the cases where the commentary relates to an asset referenced on the page, is that it decouples the item referred to from location which makes reference to it.  This translates to Glue displaying  the comment on any page in where the same item is found, as opposed to just being seen on the same page where the comment was made.  This difference won’t likely persist, and seems more a matter of emphasis/focus and positioning.

Since the annotations are only visible to users making use of the particular service used when making the annotations, the more of these services we see, the more fragmented the sea of commentary.  The next level may be about “aboutness”, and differentiation by the ability to determine relatedness of otherwise unassociated commentary and content – and making the virtual connection between the two for the user.

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In the context of marketing and advertising, we’ve heard more during the last year or so, in reference to the semantic web and semantic technology.  What does Semantic Advertising really mean?  One interpretation – the one we’re not talking about here – is the selling of something by calling it semantic, which some have done in order to ride momentum (which I call “meme-entum”) of the space to sell something based on a loose association with the concept of “meaning” or “intent”.  So what are we talking about?

The Art of Online AdvertisingImage by khawaja via Flickr

VS

New, Improved *Semantic* Web!Image by dullhunk via Flickr

The strategy in the space has long been driven by word association, and more and more-so on an automated basis.  At a time, placement was done on an entirely manual basis – and automation of keyword matching increasingly became the basis for new business models.  That is, after all, the basis of what we now think of as contextual advertising – the alignment of what the user is looking for with the other things they encounter on the page.

  • So to put it simply:  What is it that is new and different?  What is it about the inner workings of an advertising mechanism that makes an offering semantic or not.  What are the drivers and opportunities around these differences?  What is real?  These are some of the things we’re looking to learn about in detail at the panel discussion that I’ve been helping to organize for Internet Week in New York – the title of which is Semantic Advertising.We’ll leave it to our moderators to dig into the nuts and bolts of the subject with the experts that have been gathered.  Going into the discussion though, here are some of the questions I’m thinking about:

    • Since keyword matching is, well,  keyword matching: what are the main differences between straight-up contextual advertising that uses keyword lookups relative to its semantic brethren?
    • Does the addition of keyword frequency, and therefore the statistical analysis of the text, make the matching on a ranking basis qualify as semantic?
    • Going beyond simply enhancing alignment, predicated upon statistical assumptions, is it the further use of NLP to not just extract concepts to be matched, but to determine the intent by the terms used – to better tune matches when words have multiple potential meanings?  Many of us have encountered the unintentionally matched ads – which can be disastrous for a brand.  What can really be done now, and how?
    • Further on the NLP side, there is the potential for sentiment detection – so even when the correct meaning of a term is understood, determining whether its use is appropriate for matching would be based on the positive or negative connotation of its use (think here in terms of whether you would want your airline advertised next to a story about an aviation mishap, for example).
    • Going at the question from the “semantic-web” side, is embedding (and detection of) metadata on the page just a different flavor of Semantic Advertising – or should we be calling that Semantic Web Advertising instead?  This seems less prone to interpretation errors, but the approach relies upon metadata which is largely not yet there.  (Because of the markup related aspects of this point, I wanted to call this post “Mark(up)eting and (RDF)ertising”, but was talked out of doing so).
    • Is there a difference in strategy and/or scalability when considering whether a semantic approach is more viable when done within the search process, as opposed to on the content of the page being viewed?
    • If ads to be served are stored in semantically compliant architecture, does that itself provide any advantages for the service provider?  And would doing so give rise to the service being referred to as Semantic Advertising?  Does this even enter into the eqaution at this point?
    • Would increases in the amount of embedded metadata shift the balance of systematically enhanced ad selection and presentation of sponsored content – from one web-interaction phase to another?

    I’m looking forward to the panel – to open my mind regarding these and other factors that come into play – and what elements and trends will be necessary for the viability of the various possible directions here.

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    Created by :en:User:Fcb981Image via Wikipedia

    The potential impact on the economy from removing burdens around health care should not be underestimated as a means of stimulus.  For many, fixing the system could mean enormous savings, if not just improved quality of life and perhaps care.

    The solution to our health care situation goes beyond regulation; it lies in changing the focus.  The intention should be about “well-being”, and all measurement and compensation for parties to system of “well being” should be driven by the success of the program.  The parties include not just the doctors, but all those engaged in the health care processes: the medical insurance companies, malpractice insurers, the pharma and device companies, and extending all the way to those providing therapy and fitness services.

    Differing time horizons need to be aligned.  Insurers may currently find it beneficial to make decisions based on short-term exposure, regardless of potential longer-term costs that could result from those decisions.  After all, it isn’t likely the patient will still be with the same insurer when the longer-term result is encountered.  The relationship (or at least the impact of it) needs to be made permanent.

    Medical and life insurance should be integrated so that the insurers’ interest in sustaining you is aligned with their interest in maintaining you.  The medical portion of premiums should be driven in part by your relative wellness (not just relative to where you should be, but to where you’ve been) and in part by the risks you take and the choices you make about your wellness.  Participation in activities that are shown to improve health and reduce risks should be rewarded, while costs should be attached to lack of participation and to risky activity.

    Doctors who participate in this wellness driven system would benefit from streamlined  administrative processes, not having to process and re-process while fighting for payment.  For their participation, they will also have access to more reasonable malpractice coverage.  Beyond the direct impact on the medical process, these changes alone should make it attractive again to pursue careers in medicine.

    Compensation under this plan would be based, in part, on relative wellness achieved – the wellness performance of those under their care.  This is in contrast to payment based on Relative Value Units, which is similar to the way your auto mechanic gets paid.  Objectives of insurers too need to be redefined to be driven by wellness in this way too – particularly at the outset of the plan.  Over time, as the balance of costs shift as a result of preventive care generating longer term savings, artificial incentives should become less economically important for proper motivation.  Treatments will be driven toward solving problems rather than addressing symptoms, and away from allowing perpetual treatment and profit from such.

    There are many aspects beyond these to be considered, but only through  review of the full spectrum of the roles in this dynamic, with consideration as to how to achieve some of the objectives for each – and with agreement as to what problem(s) we’re trying to solve, can interests be aligned – not just on a particular purpose, but with a long view.

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    Old petrol pumps in Nøtterøy, NorwayImage via WikipediaLast week, I read a story about an idea being considered in Oregon — to move from a gas tax to a mileage tax, to offset losses in road repair revenue as a result of there being more cars with better fuel economy.  As Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, put it:   As cars burn less fuel, “the gas tax isn’t going to fill the bill“.

    Many may think this seems like an interesting idea, and that even if I did live in Oregon, it wouldn’t impact me very much.    Those of you who are of the value network persuasion will likely recognize, right away, the counterproductivity this move would represent.  For me, this idea makes little “cents” (pun intended).

    Here we are pushing “green”, and acting as if we recognize the impact we’ve had on our environment.  And along comes a complicated and expensive approach that seems to perpetuate what I call “long-term short-sightedness”.

    Sure, such a tax could serve to counter the revenues being lost as a result of cars having better fuel economy – but at the cost of creating a disincentive to  progress and participation we’ve made on the environmental front?

    Perhaps not the best alternative, but simply increasing the overall fuel tax, rather than a system that offsets an incentive to “do your part” (at least the part of increased economy), seems a better way to attack the problem – assuming that the problem is simply the reduced revenue.

    Another alternative, related to suggestions that the real tartet here is congestion, or at least congestion at certain times of the day, would be to implement tolls – or an EZPass type system for an automated approach.  This would “tax” the road use at issue and could be a more efficient approach from an infrastructure standpoint – and one that doesn’t deter what some people are doing to reduce costs/emissions.

    Sure, I’m an outsider in this particular case (by about 2,750 miles), and yes, I’ve likely oversimplified the situation, but in addressing new problems, doesn’t it make the most sense to consider all the moving parts and various objectives that we’re trying to satisfy with our actions?

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    FahrenheitImage by buschap via FlickrEvery now and again, you find yourself doing something that, when considered in the context of other parts of your life, can reveal interesting things about yourself or people in general.  I drew one such parallel after spending a weekend with my family hurtling through the air at Hershey Park.

    For those of you who have never been there, it has 11 roller coasters – and if you’re not into them, well, you’re going to be standing around a lot waiting for your kids to come back saying “that was great”, “let’s do it again”, or something about a snack.  I’ve done lots of things that some would consider daring – including rock and ice climbing, and flying in a glider, sea kayaking, whitewater rafting… but I’ve just never been one for rides that are supposed to give you near-death experiences, because frankly, I don’t generally like feeling that close to “the edge”.

    Since my wife and kids were so gleeful following each of their wild rides – especially Farenheight (pictured above) and Storm Runner, with their loops, corkscrews, and in the case of the latter, acceleration from 0 to 70 in 2 seconds – I was compelled to understand their sense of the differences from one ride to another – and how each impacted their senses.

    In the back of my mind, I think I was secretly trying to ascertain which of the elements I could personally have handled – given that each person has a different sense of what “scary” is, and you cannot just rely on someone saying “it wasn’t so bad” or “you could handle that”.  Key factors which weigh differently by individual include: height, speed, drops (number, length, steepness), banks, roughness, re-direction and mis-direction… (among surely many more categorizations of the coaster-phile).

    On the “handle-it” scale, I had already managed Lightning Racer, Wildcat, and Comet, and had dipped my toe into the “beyond” with SuperDooperLooper (and a few others) – and their death defying drops and loops.  To “push my research”, I finally succumbed to the pleas of my family, and (somehow) joined them on Great Bear, which added “hanging from the rail”, and “corkscrews” to my repertoire.

    At the end of Great Bear though – which, by the way, I survived – I realized that I had only managed to do so by staring at a bolt – which attached the seat in front of me to the chassis holding the seats on the rails, from which we were hanging.below – for the entire ride.  A friend commented days later that the only way to do a ride like that is to give yourself over to the ride.  I fear (among obvious other things) that I did not do this.  While I can say to my 10-year-old, who finally stopped calling me a sissy,  that “I did it”, I cannot say that I experienced all it had to offer – but I survived.

    The parallel I alluded to above is not related to the two tracks on each coaster – but to life in general – work, activities, people, relationships…  If you give yourself over to these experiences, you can get out of them all they have to offer, and help others do the same.   This too reminds me of the same parallel that went on in the back of my mind following a whitewater kayaking trip in the winter of 1978-79, during which a professor said to me “we need to make sure we’re moving faster than the water if we have any intentions about steering”.

    If you hang on, fixing your gaze on a bolt to simply survive, you’re going to get tossed around and may not enjoy the “ride”.  In the case of the Great Bear, the truth is that the ride may never get another chance to show me its stuff.

    Afterthoughts: How does this relate to some of the other things I’ve written about here?  On one hand, it isn’t supposed to.  On the other hand, it informally dives into the formalization of experience – the elements of things – in this case, the taxonomy of thrill.  I appear to have stumbled into an area known as thrill research – but I think I may leave well enough alone.

    Coinage du jour: “parallel-0-gram” – a message in which a comparison or parallel is drawn or relayed.

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